People and Culture of Turkey

by: Anna Catherine Jordan

Brief History

The history of the Turks covers a time frame of more than 4000 years. Turks first lived in Central Asia around 2000 BC. Later, some of them left Central Asia and spread around, establishing many states and empires independent from each other within a vast area of Asia and Europe. These empires included The Great Hun Empire (established during the 3rd Century B.C.), the Göktürk Empire (552- 740), the Uygur Empire (741- 840), the Avar Empire (6-9 Century A.D.), the Hazar Empire (5-10 Century A.D), the Great Seljuk Empire (1040- 1157), and many others.

3 events explained:

WORLD WAR I 1914 –1918: The weakening of the Empire continued until World War I. The Ottoman Empire entered the First World War in 1914 on the side of the allied powers and emerged defeated from the war in 1918, compelled to sign the Mondros Armistice on October 30, 1918. Under the terms of this Armistice, the territories of the Ottoman Empire were occupied by Britain, France, Russia, and Greece. This was the actual end of the Ottoman Empire.

OTTOMAN AGE 1299–1923: The Seljuk State rapidly declined with the Mongol invasion of Anatolia which started in 1243. During the period of the decline of the Anatolian Seljuk state and after its disappearance, many Turcoman principalities were established in Anatolia towards the end of the thirteenth century. One of these was the Ottoman (in Turkish Osmanli) Beylik (similar to a Principality) named after its founder, a Turkish ruler named Osman in 1299 in the environs of Söğüt in Eskişehir in the northwestern corner of the peninsula. The Ottoman Beylik rapidly expanded throughout the fourteenth century and thus arose the Ottoman Empire, which ruled over a vast territory on three continents and lasted for 623 years until the end of the First World War.

Turks in Anatolia: The Turks started to settle in Anatolia in the early 11th century by way of continual migrations and incursions. The Malazgirt victory in 1071 against the Byzantines literally opened up the gates of Anatolia to the Turks. It is following this date that the Turks fully conquered the whole of Anatolia and established the Anatolian Seljuk State there (1080-1308).This was the first Turkish State in Anatolia and was sometimes called, after its capital city of many years, the Konya Sultanate.

Current Facts


79,414,269 (July 2015 est.)
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Ethnic Groups

Turkish 70-75%, Kurdish 18%, other minorities 7-12%
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Turkish (official), Kurdish, other minority languages
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Muslim 99.8% (mostly Sunni), other 0.2% (mostly Christians and Jews)
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definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 95%

male: 98.4%

female: 91.8%

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Health Statics

birth rate: 16.33 births/1,000 population

Death rate: 5.88 deaths/1,000 population

infant mortality rate:

total: 18.87 deaths

male: 20.13 deaths

female: 17.55 deaths


Daily life and Cuisine


50% of the female population dress in tesettür, a headscarf and light cover-all topcoat.

You may see some women in Burka (black full-body covering, with veil). Most may be visitors from other countries with a stricter interpretation of islamic dress traditions, though some will be Turks who have revived the Ottoman tradition.


Not so long ago, Turkey stood out as having one of the fastest growing economies in the world, fuelled by trade and foreign investment - with the UK one of its major export markets, accounting for 5.7% of all products exported in 2013. However, it is currently going through a tough period, and is struggling to maintain its rapid expansion. One of the areas least affected by the economic tension is its reformed financial services sector, with some job openings for overseas professionals looking to work in banking.


98 airports

20 heliports

12,008 railways

385,754 roadways

Dolmuşes are minibuses that operate on set routes within a city. They're usually faster, more comfortable and only slightly more expensive than the bus.

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Turkish Families

Life in a Turkish Family is certainly different to what I am used to. After a recent visit to my In Laws I felt like I had been in the BBC TV series Tribal wives, were 6 women are taken from their daily lives and taken to stay with a tribal family to learn their ways.

Many of these women in a sense found themselves while they staid with these families and enjoyed the slower more old fashioned way of life. I am not sure if they would want to live like that forever but it certainly gave them an insight into their own lives.

During a recent stay with my Turkish family I took a step back and watched as an outsider may have watched and looked at life in my Turkish/Kurdish family and I found it is certainly more like life with a tribe than life in a Western family.

Life in my family certainly looks and feels old fashioned, the women stay home and the men go out to work. The women take care of all the household and family issues and the men worry about bringing home the money and the food.

For me coming from a world where a women is not really valued unless she works and has a career, where you are taught that it is your right to work and that you need to have a career to feel like you have achieved something in life. When looking at my Turkish family their world can feel a bit frustrating and demeaning towards women.

If you sit still in my Sister in Laws house you could be mistaken into thinking you are living in a well run hotel. My nieces prepare the breakfast and everyone sits down together around the cloth laid on the floor. Once everyone has eaten this is cleared away and the housework begins, dishes are washed, floors are cleaned, clothes are washed and so on. Then the dinner is prepared and then finally around mid afternoon, they finish and have a few hours off, these are normally spent watching tv, praying or hanging out in their rooms. Then the meal is served in the evening followed by tea and fruit and then bed. All organised and ordered by my Sister in Law.

How the work is spread out depends on your age and standing within the family circle. For instance I am older than my Nieces and I am also their Teyze (Aunt) therefore they are required to do the washing up before I am. My Sister in Law is older than my husband and I and therefore I would do the washing up before her. If I am staying at my Mother in Laws home and visitors even family visitors come as I am the youngest living in my Mother in Laws house, its me who will prepare the tea and do the work.

When there is a large family gathering more often than not proper protocol is observed, the women sit most often in the kitchen or smaller living area and the men sit in the large or good living room. The women will ferry in plenty tea and snacks to the men. While the separate groups chat and gossip about various topics. No one feels insecure or hard done by with this separation and its often nice to get rid of the men when you want to talk about weight loss and spanxs (underwear) yes we have had that conversation.

On quieter family gatherings we all sit together and drink tea and chat about this one and that one, about the days politics or latest news. When the conversation dies then the attention may turn to the TV and the latest Soap or TV game show or reality TV. These evenings are more relaxed and you will find the women have as much to say as the men and often a good debated gets started which often gets a little heated.

While I am staying with my family I do not get to sit and escape the work, I make tea and wash the dishes and often help with and or prepare meals. I also help with the cleaning and anything else that needs doing. Though I do enjoy the days when we visitor my husbands brothers and sisters for meals or tea as those are the days I get to sit back and relax.

Though appearances can be mistaken, this old fashioned family, is not so old fashioned and stuck in the past, they are moving forward with the times. One of my nieces has finished her degree and has started out on what looks like a successful career. Another niece is starting out in University and working towards becoming nurse. Both fully supported by the family. I have two more nieces and they are yet to decide what they want in life.

On the flip side of the coin my Nephews new wife chose to be a housewife and even chose to have an arranged marriage with my Nephew. It was a strange process for me to observe at the time. Having spoke with her she is happy with her choice and way of life, she has no regrets about University and career.

After taking this step back to watch my family I realised I love this way of life. I love being a housewife and looking after my home and family. Why? Why don’t I crave a career or my name in flashing lights? Will I not look back and say I wasted my life. No, Being a housewife is no less inferior to being a lawyer, doctor or teacher. Many want to stay at home and raise their children, live the slower pace of life. Many hate their boring jobs and 9-5 lifestyle. They want to live this way.

At the end of the day when it is all said and done, you can have all the money and things in the world but nothing is more important than family and in western society we seem to have forgotten this and we don’t live for the family yet we crave to have it. Here in Turkey in my family, life is about family and not about things and careers. In Turkey they have it the right way around and I am happy to be a housewife and raising my own little tribe……

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Pre-School Education: Optional kindergarten education, up to 6 years of age.
Primary Education: Compulsory and free basic education for eight years (5 years elementary + 3 years secondary), 6-14 years of age.
Secondary Education: 4 years of High School 15-17/18 years of age. Some schools might have an additional year of language study. High schools are mostly owned by the government and provide free education.
Higher Education: 4 years of University. Some schools have an additional year of language study. Under normal circumstances, Master's study lasts 2 years; PhD 3-5 years. This category includes all educational institutions which will provide post-secondary education.


Turkey is just like the united states when it comes to housing. It all depends on which part of the country you live.